The screams were unmerciful.
It was as though all the sinners of the world had combined into one unholy union and screeched their anguish into a synthesised megaphone.
Was someone being whipped a cripple?
The yelps of misery continued but fluctuated with a moaning like the desperate sob of a Brontosaurus attempting to open a packet of salt and vinegar crisps. Gregory the Goblin lurched silently toward the sounds, his fear being overtaken by his rubber-necked curiosity.
What could be making such a noise?
Here he waltzed, deep in the Dingleberry Dell, renowned for being one of the safest havens on the whole of Uranus. Could it be that one of the Ogres of The North had lost his way and fallen into disarray? Or perhaps a Harpy had crash landed and was pissed off at the lack of decent runways.
He inched forward.
The desire to witness someone in pain is strong, stronger than the desire to put someone in pain; which probably explains the profusion of Dentists, Teachers, Pox Doctors, Taxmen and Karaoke Singers.
Greg tried to move as quietly as possible, but being a lumbering galoot made that near impossible.
Another terrific squeal wrenched the Worried Woodland. Here lies bitter anguish, thought Greg. Here is a guilty party caught with his hands in the cookie jar. Or maybe even a cricketer bowled to middle stump without a box.
He tried to stoop, but remembered that he was bowlegged with a bad back, so just moved as normal. The Woodland thinned and the light grew stronger as Greg took the challenge of moving just that little bit more. The sneaky beaky instinct of a feral soldier lay deep in his Psyche. He peered out from behind one of the last trees and beheld an image that would haunt him for the rest of his days.
There in the middle of the glade, writhing like a demented eel in a bucketful of snot, was his old friend Peter the Pixy. He rocked and rolled across the ground, both hands grabbing tightly onto his arse, screaming for help.
“The Ring! The Ring!” he cried.
Greg watched for a while, keeping himself hidden in the gloom on the edge of the opening. This could be a dangerous trap.
Wizards, Warlocks and Wives are the only creatures with magic rings.
Perhaps some evil Wizard was watching and waiting, using Peter as bait to try and capture and enslave the unwary. Should he sidle off backwards and leave Peter to his fate, recalling later in life that it was either kill or be killed, and that a blast form a Wizards staff was not quite what he had in mind that day.
Or should he be a tough guy and dive in there, facing up to whatever Beastie was trying to destroy his old friend.
Greg watched as the pain ripped across his old friends face, dancing a Calypso as it pulled down the corners of his mouth, wrinkled his nose and made his eyes bulge like a Bubble Eye Goldfish!
As he pondered this dilemma Peter rolled closer and caught his eye.
“Greg you idle bastard get over here and help me!” yelled the noble Pixy. “My rear is on fire and I don’t have a way of extinguishing the flames.”
Greg hesitated for just a short while as the news was assimilated into his delightfully slow brain.
“Ok!” he said, casually sauntering toward his stricken pal, as he dabbed a handkerchief on the eye which Peter had caught.
Greg was a bit slow in the head but he had been trained well at the Goblin Military Academy in Goblin Town as a part of his Yoof Training Programme. He knew how to assess a situation, searching for emergency exits and potential traps. He was also rather good at First Aid, having spent some time doing a Lifesaver course with the St. Johnswort Ambivalence Brigade. He felt competent to assess the situation and to then formulate a plan.
“Dr ABC and two packets of Fishcakes! What’s the matter then mate?” asked the Goblin.
“Hell and high water!” squealed the Pixy, “I’ve been stricken by the Dukes!”
How the Fates laughed.
(Though nobody else did)
Only the good die young, they say; everyone else is destroyed slowly by the Dukes! What kind of dice did God have when he invented ailments?
‘Here’s a good one’ mused Odin; ‘I’ll let the veins pop out of their ringpiece!’
Bacchus saying ‘Look lets make them get addicted to this so that their livers stop working and they lose family and friends and spend nights with pox riddled whores!’
And the Lord put emerods in their secret places.
Still, without ailments, how would we ever get to heaven?
Greg surveyed, perused and summed up the situation. There were no evil monsters waiting to grab him; no Harpies with Herpes; no wee timorous beasties desirous of nesting in his underpants; no Double Glazing salesmen hovering on the edge of Time with a Special Offer from The Manager that can only be held open until six o´clock that evening; and certainly no Timeshare tarts ready to enslave his income for the rest of his life.
Just his old friend Peter writhing in agony whilst clutching tightly onto his buttocks.
“The Dukes!” mused the gregarious Goblin. “How did that happen?”
There was anguish, fear and guilt in the eyes of the Pixy.
Greg mused again – if we need to vote I´d say the eyes have it.
“I will tell you the whys and wherefores after you have extinguished or at least dampened the burning!” strained Peter.
As usual he was carrying his rather useful twenty five litre day pack, with integral meshing, a top pocket and a double zip; with a breathable day sack and neoprene labels. It contained all of the items any person could expect for emergency aid, including a mobile phone with GPS, three glue sticks, a tampon, a calculator, a cuddly toy, three banjo sprockets, a camel pack and a packet of camels, stapler and hole punch, a crocodile clip and an alligator clasp, a First Aid Kit from Boots the Shoe Shiner, a torch, three felt tip pens in contrasting colours, a waterproof pad and pencil and a pack of cheese and chutney sandwiches, on wholegrain, wrapped carefully in a resealable bag. He dug deep and found a fire extinguisher.
“Get you kecks off mate.”
Peter paused his pulsating writhing.
“What Class of Fire Extinguisher is that?” asked the pained Pixy.
Greg checked carefully.
“Foam,” he said, “suitable for both Class A and Class B fires.”
“I´d much prefer a powder extinguisher as they are far more suitable for organic materials,” rejoined Peter.
“But devilishly difficult to clean up the mess later, and if inhaled could cause damage to the upper respiratory system,” explained Greg.
Peter paused and felt the fire burning in his ring.
“Feck it, foam will do!” he squealed in agony.
There was a scything whoosh as a jet of freezing foam attacked the burning in the Pixys bum. The air froze momentarily as ecstasy overtook Peter’s mind. Endorphins poured around his brain, having been relieved of the duty of trying to hide the pain, they now decided to give him a party in his head.
Where once the throngs of decay had waltzed on his face Peter now felt the Bosa Nova shimmying across his physiognomy.
This was pleasure.
This was relief.
This was foam up the jacksy.
“Another squirt please mate!”
Time passed slowly, but then it always does when waiting for something to happen. Like waiting for last nights conquest to leave your apartment the next morning, without dying of embarrassment; Or waiting for the government to make a decision about pay rises for key workers; Or sitting through a Maths test; Or watching teenagers have a great time at a Halloween Disco organised by Mrs. Skank.
For Peter the natural opiates dissipated their relief, causing the Pixy to start assessing his anal situation seriously. He couldn’t spend the rest of his days walking round with a fire extinguisher, dreading an attack and the ensuing embarrassment. Dropping his trousers mid dinner party would be quite a social faux pas.
Oh how the other Pixy’s would gossip!
“Well there I was just about to take a sip of my Cranberry juice when low and behold Peter puts his bare bottom in the middle of the table and shoots it full of Foam; I mean really!”
The two friends sat nervously on the grass, Greg repacking his daysack while Peter pulled his kecks up and tried his best to sit on one buttock at a time. Peter could tell that Greg was slowly disapproving of his old friend.
A Pixy and a Goblin with a close friendship was certainly a rarity on Uranus. The Class Consciousness of Uranus makes the Gimps of Britain look relatively Socialistic.
It was the reforms of the Great Fairy King, Peter the Grate, that established a ranking system on Uranus. The Fairies are at the top of the Social tree, being more naturally gifted, talented and good looking than anything else you would find. The current Absolute Constitutional Ruler was Innocent, King of the Fairies, who had ruled for many a happy and glorious year along with his wife Queen Dillberry.
The Pixy’s liked to consider themselves as the next level in Society even if this was often disputed by the Elfs and the Brownies. Then somewhere below this came the Orcs and Goblins; though with the high tech world on Uranus, and a good understanding of the Financial Markets, many of the Orcs were making their way up the slippery social ladder.
So with potentially four ranks between them, a Pixy and Goblin really shouldn’t be close friends. The reality is they shouldn’t even spend time at the same urinal.
The thing is, see, they are the same age, give a day or two, and enjoy the same interests and pursuits. Both have marvellous stamp collections, Peter specialising in blue coloured stamps, Greg having a post-modernist compilation of red examples. Both had a penchant for model railways, spending many a happy hour arguing the merits of the different gauges available (even though mostly by mail order). They loved to go fishing, hiking, camping and drinking together. The drinking sometimes caused a few problems, as the more respectable boozing dens were not too keen on letting Goblins onto the premises.
“Keep an eye on that Goblin or it will steal something” was a common taunt. Rightly so as it turned out, as Greg loved to take cutlery and coffee cups from wherever he went.
Still, that’s life.
Or is that Still Life?
Peter turned back to the immediate.
“Listen, Greg, I need a proper cure for this problem.”
“What caused it?”
It was clearly a time for pauses, though just at this moment there was a distinct absence of canines.
Peter did not like to admit to his mistakes. In fact he oafishly boasted that he no longer made mistakes, claiming that whatever action he took was the right one at the time and of course hindsight would often show he should have made a different decision.
But you can’t.
When it’s done it’s done.
Live for today and tomorrow and forget the past.
Actually if we forget all of the Living in the Past there would never be any need for Historians, Archivists, Librarians, English Teachers or Jethro Tull.
Peter guiltily reflected on his actions in the last few months.
He had always been happy with the food he had eaten for so many years. Yes it was getting a bit repetitive but it was solid sustenance. Double burger and chips and beans Pixy style; Acorn soup; Macaroni cheese; Cauliflower in gravy; Avocado if it was in season; Cheddar Cheese on Water Biscuits; a Partridge in a pear tree; Full English from the Greasy Spoon; Chips and Curry; Naan and a Balti; and Whisky on a Sunday.
But as he got older he began to crave some excitement. He wanted to let himself into the kitchens of the Fairy King and feast on Fairy Cream Pies. He knew this could be dangerous as the inner workings of a lowly Pixy must, by definition and nature, be very different to the plop producing biomes of the higher echelons. Does a Pixy produce the same food reducing enzymes as a Fairy? Would both creatures have the same number of Villi? Perhaps Fairies could break down cellulose and avoid the need ever to poop! Did they even possess a colon? And how many Angels can dance the Light Fandango on the top of a pin? These questions soared through his brain, tempting and teasing him into action.
It is irrelevant and dangerous to allow ones mind to wander like this.
Still Peters craving for a nice bit of Fairy Pie persisted.
As a Pixy, Peter was very much amongst the privileged members of Society in the Government City of Setebos. He didn’t have to live under a bridge like a Troll, or collect pieces of hazardous waste like a Gremlin. He could have as much mischievous fun as an Imp without carrying the stigma or he could be as imperious as a Fairy without having to keep a rod up his backside. It was the best position to have in Society, being near the top but still having the fun of the bottom feeders.
Still the craving persisted.
Fairy Pies and Fairy Cakes.
He thought about the Queens dainties and the Kings Hot Cross Buns. He dreamt about Fairy Cakes and Custard Cream Pies; of Apple Crumble and Raspberry Tarts.
Of Battenberg and Muffins.
He dreamt of Fairy Muffin until it became an insatiable craving.
It was the Queens Tarts that got him in the end.
“I sneaked in to the Fairy kitchens and stole a Tart,” he admitted.
Greg was dumbstruck, dumbfounded and dumb.
“Of all the most stupid and reckless things to have done!” squawked the Goblin. “Did you forget the prophecy?”
Peter reflected again.
“Where did you get that mirror?” asked Greg.
Peter chewed his bottom lip in contemplation of his silly misdeed.
Of course he knew the prophecy.
Every Pixy knew the prophecy, but it became so much of a myth, such as old wives tell, a bedside story for Pixylets, that he didn’t really believe it. Just a way for the anally retentive Fairies to try and keep us in our place, he thought.
Greg chanted out the old verse to remove Peter´s self-indulgent reverie;
“If a Pixy does eat some Fairy Tarts
The first he’ll feel is strangled farts,
And though such sounds produce big smiles
His bum will soon be bulging piles”
It was a daft prophecy.
Though in this case it turned out to be true.
When it comes to prophecies and old sayings Peter personally preferred the one about ‘he who smelt it dealt it’.
“My poop chute hurts so much mate, you’ve got to help me sort it out!”
Greg felt sympathy well up as rapidly as a slug on Valium.
In his book ´sympathy´ lay somewhere between ´shit´ and ´syphillis´.
The Military training took over with the grave Goblin. ´There is no such thing as a problem, only a solution´, he glibly said to himself.
“Listen Old Peter Old Pixy Old pal. I can get you a series of temporary solutions but you’re gonna have to sort yourself out in the long run. It’s relatively easy to get a short term cure for the pain but in the end you need to go deep inside your head and find out what possessed you to go chasing after an unattainable Tart.”
Greg was stunned that his condescending friend readily agreed.
“Cripes, Are you Ok Peter,” asked the querying Goblin.
“My arse is on fire and my future is probably blighted,” said the piqued Pixy.
“No I am not alright!”
Never mind,” said Greg. “It doesn’t really matter.”
Greg paused as he waited for Peter to pause.
“Meanwhile you have to accept what I say,” said Greg once the pauses were complete.
Rummaging through his bag the Goblin withdrew a 454 gram block of lard.
“Here, stick this up your jacksy, it will act as a temporary lubricant, reduce the swelling and make you feel darned uncomfortable.”
“Why 454 grams?” asked the puzzled Pixy.
“Just pound it in there!” said Greg, secretly laughing at his own joke.
Peter rapidly followed his friends’ instructions, having no desire to put up with the pain of a broken bum for any longer than necessary. The lard worked, though made his nethers feel unpleasant. It was though he had followed through with a big pancake in his pants, without the embarrassment or the smell.
“What do I do next?” enquired the relieved Pixy as he pulled up his breeches.
“You may not like this bit but it has to be done.”
“We have to go and see King Innocent in the Court of the Fairies and ask his advice. If he can’t suggest a cure then you’re doomed to a lifetime of Foam Fire Extinguisher and lard.”
Peter reflected on this.
“That´s a really beautiful mirror,” observed Greg.
It had been oh so easy to get into this trouble.
A craving and a bit of daring.
Then trouble and strife.
A total pain in the bumhole.
How could a Fairy Pie cause so much trouble?
Now he needed to follow a plan to get himself out of this mess, a plan that would mean walking up the King and admitting what he had done. A plan that would take him to a place he had never visited before, where the streets have no names and the birds sing with French accents.
“No I will have no regrets.”
It would be the greatest challenge of his life, to finally admit that he had done something wrong and accept the consequences. Perhaps he would need to buy a pack of fags for the King and some Chocolates for the Queen.
“I’m ready,” said the chastened Pixy as he followed the lurching form of his old friend toward the City of Setebos and the Court of King Innocent.